Is There Work Load Discrimination In Meat Departments?

Personally I believe there is!

Over the years our members have complained bitterly about increased “work loads” applied on them due to department labor reductions. Many blame increases in “dollars per man hour or pounds per man hour. The complaints are universal and extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from North America to South America and it could be world wide as it applies to meat departments. Maybe its time for meat cutters around the world to put down your knives, step back from the cutting table and read The Fair Labor Standards Act. But before I get into this lets take a look around our place of employment.

The operating meat department (not a Walmart meat department) has a mandate. That mandate is governed on what we all know “dollars per man hour”, or some form of it. With no regards too: An environment that is hostile due to refrigeration, noise, dampness, equipment operations and knives, lots of knives. Above average hot water must be used for sanitation purposes including all kinds of chemicals. Heavy lifting is also the norm. The potential for injury is higher in the meat department than any other department. But despite these issues management stands by “The Mandate”.

No doubt there are hourly modifications in other departments like grocery, produce, bakery, prepared foods, deli, floral and other related departments, however, nothing compares with the rigid-standards set for the meat departments. Most savvy store manager will agree that they must be careful about cutting to much labor hours in 3 departments; deli, prepared foods, and Check Out! Yes, I consider Check Out as its own department. I call them money-handlers. Now in this regard is where I bring in “Fair Labor Standards Act”.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

The law has many twist and turns however in its simplest form and for this discussion; hourly workers must get paid overtime pay after 40 hours. In legal terms; Hourly employees and some salaried employees are nonexempt workers, which means they are entitled to overtime. So why do I feel that meat departments and meat cutters are being discriminated against? Because of the “The Hourly Increase Workload”.

So many men and women have left our trade, you can read it hear any day of the week from cutters around the globe. They left our trade because of ” Workload Abuse” and all of the above mentioned operational duties that are required of an meat department employee.

Now lets look at this from upper managements point of view just to be fair and balanced. If the demand for meat products and services increases, the company has a few options to accommodate the surge in business. Hiring additional staff, whether permanent or temporary, but that can be costly, or cut back on services which can loose customers, or pay overtime to keep everything in sink, but that hits the bottom line. “Or just simply increase the Work Load” and try to stay within the Labor and Employment Laws. Personally, I feel many companies are operating in the “gray-area” without being checked on this by FLSA. Increasing the workload for a salaried worker doesn’t increase the pay — salaried workers earn the same fixed rate, regardless of how many hours it takes to complete their duties.

Hourly employees and some salaried employees are nonexempt workers, which means they are entitled to overtime. The FLSA requires that employers pay nonexempt employees one and a half times their regular hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Salaried workers who are nonexempt are the ones who perform duties that don’t require independent judgment and jobs that aren’t directly connected to the management of the company. Before you increase a nonexempt employee’s workload, companies should check state law to determine whether it differs from the federal law. Many states have their own overtime regulations; when the state law differs from the federal law, employers must pay the higher of the two. For example, California law mandates paying one and a half times the employee’s hourly rate when he works more than eight hours in a day. If he works more than 12 hours in one day, he’s entitled to double time. In Kentucky, workers must be paid overtime after the sixth day of work in a week.

I know this sounds harsh but after hearing so many stories from members concerning heavy work loads it certainly seems that management is putting bottom line before the health and welfare of meat department employees.